Two years ago today it was Mother’s Day. My first celebration of the day with a daughter out of my womb. We bought the bus two years ago today.
And I thought as an anniversary present, I’d give you a tour of the interior of our bus.
A few months or so ago I was upstairs putting Willa down for her afternoon nap. This happens every single day. We have a routine. I love the routine. On this particular day, there was a heat and a pleasant aroma from baking in the senator–we love baking in the senator. The house was warm amidst the frosty winter afternoon.
When we heat up the house it rises to the loft, efficiently warming the bedrooms. This is cozy every evening, and we almost always sleep with our bedroom window open to the forest air. In the middle of the afternoon, however, after baking for some hours in the morning, without a way to suck all the heat from the upstairs (even with the windows open), this heat can be miserable. Just ask the two-year-old. Just ask her nine-months pregnant mama. Miserable. And, yes, this too shall pass. But it seems silly to ruin a perfectly good nap over a couple a cookies.
But wait! Our house has a skylight in the center of the ceiling. This skylight can open, but only if you’re tall enough to reach the 11 or so feet and then put something inside the skylight to keep it open. Nope. But wait! There is another way! You can stand on the counter, and if your arm reaches the skylight from there–about seven feet or so–you can set up something inside to get a draft pull to suck out the heat from the house. When my husband is home, he gladly opens the skylight for a little too much smoke, for a little too much heat, or for general air circulation. He stands atop the counter and puts a small piece of kindling wood in to give air flow.
I can do none of those things. It turns out, that in a flurry of a cranky almost-napper, this robustly pregnant mama cannot even use a very tall ladder to open said skylight. I will spare you the details. Suffice it to say that we did not get the skylight open, and we did cry. And we remembered that this is ever-changing and we did end up taking a nap. Not before I sent Cody a text to tell him we have to figure out a way for me to access opening the skylight (I’ll spare you the verbatim).
They make gadgets for this, I know they do. Cody has been working on a very cool project for a client and just installed a skylight so he had a silly brochure lying around in our burnables pile after the installation. The people in that catalog look very happy. They never get too hot because they can’t open their skylight, I know it. (I’m winking at you.)
Our life is handmade. Sometimes it takes an honest day’s work for the making of that handmade life to come to fruition, but it’s generally worth it. My husband, the genius that he is, after collaborating with his co-workers, stopped at the hardware store on his way home. He’s typically silently aligned with the notion that “if mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy” and in his Renaissance man manner, devised a perfect plan for my easy access to our skylight. He’s clever, that husband. It’s a string attached to a felted stick revolving on a big bolt. It’s simple mechanics and it’s also genius. I love it. I love him. He came right home and put it together.
I love our bus home. I love everything about it. I love that as it unfolds, we are really carving our own path. I love that everything has a home. I love that every home is small. I love that we can create our life catered to our needs, habits, quirks, and passions. I love that we are taking it on the road, to test if we built a very tiny home that happens to be on wheels or if we actually built a mobile home. I love it all!
We’re hitting the road. We owe it to the bus, you know. But the time is now, it’s always now, it’s all we have, and we’re taking this now-time to travel–at least up to central Washington for weddings and babies and a hot hot summer (you know I want that!).
I suppose we’ve been headed this way for a long time. Admittedly, it feels bittersweet to leave Santa Cruz as we’ve grown a sweet and darling little community here, we had both of our babies here, the food is good all year here. I love so much about this place. And Cody reminds me that it doesn’t mean goodbye forever, we could come back to live, or at least to visit.
Are you excited? I thought you would be! Me too.
I talk a lot about finding our home, about settling down, buying land, growing a garden, getting animals, homesteading, and committing to a community. And now I’m telling you that we are hitting the road with only what fits in our humble abode on wheels! We built the bus because we didn’t know where to plant roots, but knew we wanted a home. And because we are different; we follow our own beat and I like that.
From Santa Cruz to Washington, where should we for sure see? What kinds of camping have you done in northern California, Oregon, and Washington?
Often people are amazed when they step foot into our bus. They can’t believe we did it in a year. They can’t believe most of our materials were from the local landfill. They can’t believe we lived in a three-walled structure while we built. They can’t believe it all. Mostly.
Often, people ask why we did it. How we did it.
We did it for a lot of reasons. When Cody and I first met, I told him of my dream of selling fried egg sandwiches from a school bus. The dream was nothing like my current reality (which–honest–is far better than I could have even imagined in my wildest dreams). He thought I was abstract. Until a year and a half later he was working for this man named Leaf, pruning his apple trees, and saw his school bus. His bus is parked next to his house. He still uses it as his man cave. His special place. Cody came right home and said “We can do this. I could build a house on a bus.” If you can imagine how fast I jumped on the world wide web to find our very own school bus, then you wouldn’t imagine it fast enough. Within a week I found our bus, within two we had purchased our sweet 1988 Carpenter (how fitting) School Bus. It was from San Juan/Aromas school district. Right south of our neck of the woods! Drives like a dream over the Santa Cruz Mountains. Drives like a dream.
We had been living for nine months in a sweet little back house two blocks from Pleasure Point beach, loving every moment of it. We spent about $15,000 in rent in the same time it takes to gestate a baby from scratch. I couldn’t believe it when I calculated the total. Our lease was up in a month and we weren’t sure were we would move. The bus sure got that ball rolling. We knew it was radical in our time. People don’t live in buses anymore. And we don’t want to be rolling gypsies. We wanted to build a home. We wanted to plant roots. We just weren’t sure where. We are from different parts of the country. The bus afforded us time to figure out where to plant ourselves. The bus opened up our opportunity to build our very own home, to become home owners! We were ecstatic.
And how did we do it? With a lot of help, a lot of planning, a lot of research, a lot of just doing it. Fast.
A frequent Glitter & Grit reader, Tim recently inquired about how we did it, structurally. He asked for pictures of the process. He inspired this post. I’d love to outline the structure, the steps, the work involved behind the scenes making the bus.
Here is Cody making the first cut! This was a huge step. I believe that often any decision is better than indecision. I think, too, sometimes just making the first move is the best move. And, here’s our first big move. The first cut, y’all.
Welding up the “ribs” which were one inch steel tubing. The redwood beams we had locally milled at a great price were further milled by Leaf and Cody to fit snug around these one inch steel tubing “ribs”.
Attaching the beautiful arched beams from one side of ribs to the next, in order to hold the walls in place.
Overcast day. Perfect for creating a place for the sheet metal roofing pieces to slide up into their locations.
In order to keep our bus waterproof while we built the outer membrane, we left the inner membrane on and built up. This allowed for just enough space to weld on the one inch steel tubing and attach the redwood beams and even build the roof. Once the new roof was waterproof we began taking off the inner membrane, no longer needed, so that we could begin building the two lofts.
Why didn’t we take off the entire roof to begin with?
So that the structure of the bus would remain in tact, on top of being waterproof while we built the exterior new roof. If we took everything off, the walls may have fallen out, or at least they would not have been level and tight. By waiting to take off the inner membrane of the bus, we maintained the original structural integrity of the bus.
I’d like to write the entire process and show you pictures, too. If you have specific questions and want them included in this series, please email to glitterandgrit (at) gmail (dot) com
A few new additions to the bus lately: our closet curtain, and Willa’s bedroom is now complete! Cody spent time weaving more p-cord through tiny strong i holes to make the upstairs net go all the way around to Willa’s room! She loves it up there. It’s an absolute fort of coolness.
As I proceed to my minimalist wardrobe experiment next week, I’ll pull back the curtain and show you before and after pictures, and tell you about the whole experience. I’m going to attempt an entire season in my “uniform.”
I’m loving the spots of yellow popping up throughout the bus. I think it turns out that yellow could be my spirit color. Do you know anything about colors? Do tell!
Cody’s building brilliance astounds me; he designed our loft staircase congruent with a small standing/drawing table for Willa, and our pantry shelves! It’s completely genius. And so beautiful. Here’s how we get upstairs each evening and downstairs to start each day, y’all, where Willa plays and draws and sometimes snacks, and where I pull out said snacks and other meal preparations!
Our home is so beautiful in the summer. I’m so excited to live remote when the weather is perfect. We have been really rejoicing in our evening walks.
For some while we were deeply committed to our bedtime routine. This was designed to look like: dinner between 5:30 and 6, bath at 6:30, snack at 6:50 accompanied by warmed milk, floss and brush teeth at 7:10, story and prayer and sing/listen to heartbeat before dreamland. What it most often looked like: dinner frazzle (no, that’s not a recipe…) with dinner on the table at 6:13, bath frazzle (no, that’s not a water toy…) until 7:10, and so on. You get he picture. Some nights, however it worked effortlessly, and seemed perfect. But it’s summer, y’all. The light is bright for like ever. So we decided to listen to our inner rhythm and start our routine at 7:30! Flexible and relaxed, we end up putting Willa down in one hour from the start (just like the designed routine), it’s amazing! When you take away the “time” aspect, often it flows in perfect rhythm. And now life feels slow and easy in the evenings.
We have time for dessert! Who doesn’t love strawberries and whipped cream (mostly whipped cream)?
And the guys are just waiting for story time, after Willa brushes and flosses their teeth!
What does your evening look like in the summer season?
This weekend will be filled with delight and simplicity. Today is the dark moon, so I’ll be pampering myself by day and in sacred ceremony with beautiful women by night; Cody will be playing with Willy all day. Saturday brings our Farmers’ Market, and love! Sunday is another calm family day. What are you up to this weekend, y’all?
I live in the tiniest of tiny spaces. With two other people.
We occupy roughly 225 square feet, and there is brilliant storage hidden amidst! I’m inspired by organizing and decorating small spaces. In order to live in a small space, space, efficiency is of utmost importance! I think enjoying the space and maximizing efficiency can be challenging, so, how to do that, and still enjoy what you see and inhabit?
1. Utilize every inch of space! Think floor to ceiling book shelf, or mocked-up, self-made detail-oriented drawers. Smart storage.
This photo by Thomas Loof (via Plastolux) shows a few of the ideas I consider brilliant for living in small spaces–voilà!–this room looks grandiose! Floor-to-ceiling book shelf, and mini rooms created by furniture arrangement!
2. Create additional entertaining areas (like the patio or porch or create a terrace with a table and chairs).
3. Nesting tables! These have been popular for years, and it’s easy to see why. They tuck away in adorable fashion, and then offer three tables when separated! Love.
I just adore vintage nesting tables, but you get the point, the options are endless and nesting tables can fit all styles. I’ll bet you could make your own.
4. Furniture with multiple purposes. I firmly believe in multiple purposes for most things in my home.
5. Organize your furniture into “mini rooms.” You can create a dining room and a living room simply by orienting the couch away from the table.
6. Windows, windows, windows! Let that light in! Illumination opens a space. If you are stuck without windows and can’t just bust out the walls with a jack hammer, mirrors will suffice. Mirrors open the space right on up by the illusion of extra windows simply reflecting that light into the room!
I love this collection of vintage mirrors, via Very Merry Vintage.
7. Only keep what you actually use. This one is key! If you haven’t used it and you don’t have space for it, time to give it the ol’ kick out the door. Less is more, sometimes (like, not with love, with love, more is more, more is the new black with love. But with stuff, in a small space, less is more. Trust me). And aren’t we in a fortunate time when we can donate things to less fortunate neighbors in our community, or even websites like freecycle which allows someone to search for exactly what they are looking for (perhaps exactly what you are shedding!).
8. Buy quality. I just love when Emily talks about de-cluttering her kitchen of all the things she acquired before she new better. We’ve all been there. It’s okay to get rid of it, I give you permission! While you search for home goods of high quality, do check out the shop that Emily loves, I love Herriott Grace, too. I fantasize about my dad and I embarking on such an adventure, or even Cody and Willa one day (both?). And the work is so beautiful.
9. Hooks, bars, and hanging storage. Like between your kitchen counter and the cabinets. Cody’s entire closet is comprised of hooks.
10. Employ your most creative self to design/organize your small space. Believe in the power of your minimalist instincts. Remember when there were hunter-gathers? They certainly didn’t need to worry about having too much stuff in their rucksack. You can do it! I believe in you. And be easy on yourself.